Vera is a 17 year-old who had a major breakdown at a school party. Not only was she hospitalized but videos were taken by peers and part-time father Lucas thinks the answer to helping her is to take her away to Lithuania to find out about his heritage.
Vera is insightful (or crazy?) and humorous. Lucas is tying to rectify his absence from Vera’s childhood and learn more about his grandmother’s escape from Stutthof, while staying sober. Hearing from the two characters is what kept me interested in the story. The combination of emails to Vera’s boyfriend Fang and narrations from Lucas and Vera, gives this story it’s holding power on the reader.
- Is this a book for Young Adult readers? It could be since a major character is a teenager, herself. But my library shelved it in new fiction and some of the content could be unsettling for younger teens.
- How’s the balance of literary fiction to historical fiction? Here’s where I was a bit distracted. There are some really great interactions between characters and present issues but also huge chunks of history regarding Lithuania and it’s mythology. I’ve been a distracted and impatient reader lately, so I found myself skimming over the “factual” info and seeking out the relationships and character interactions.
- How are the characters? Lucas’ voice was questionable to me at times while reading. As a parent, his concerns were spot-on but I have a hard time getting inside the heads of male characters who are emotional, thoughtful, vulnerable and introspective. Why? I don’t know. Is it really how they think? In the end I didn’t care and think Thorpe did an amazing job with all the characters. (More authors should write male characters like this, btw,–another debate for another day). Vera was so believable as a teen who is questioning her relationship with Fang, trusting a newer relationship with her father and just wanting to explore and fit in while on vacation. I LOVED her! Even mother Katya was a character who I wish had more page time. Each character is so layered and just when you think you know everything about them, they reveal something new.
- How’s the story? A great balance overall. I did lose some momentum with the history and reveal of Lucas’ past. I was more invested in Vera. But the ending and how the story plays out did make me cry with real tears. Having a personal connection to loved ones just like Vera made it a powerful read for me. Thorpe explored mental illness in the best possible and realistic way: a very scary, very confusing and very human experience.